One of my most favorite kinds of story is one that involves seeing grandparents as rebels when they were younger. These people weren’t always the blue-haired ladies and gentlemen in dress slacks, you know. Some of them were FEISTY – like Jennifer’s. This story has so many great moments of two people pushing against the social norms and their life-long spirit is so completely obvious. Thanks, Jennifer – I wish I could have met your grandparents – they sound so fascinating!
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I wear a ring on my right hand. It’s nothing sparkly. Just a plain gold band. But it means so much more to me than that.
It’s the ring that my grandmother wore for a good part of her life.
The ring that my grandfather purchased for her in the six weeks between their first and second weddings.
Yes. Two weddings, six weeks apart.
My grandmother, the former Mildred D’Lugin of Wilmington, NC and my grandfather, Monroe Evans, of Fayetteville, NC, had known each other for less than two weeks when, on their second date, Poppa suggested that they get married. And Gaggy agreed. But the response Poppa got when he asked Jake D’Lugin for his daughter’s hand in marriage was, “Wait a year or so.”
That was on a Sunday. The following Sunday, May 9th, 1937, just happened to be Mother’s Day. Poppa had arranged for a date with Gaggy and when he picked her up, he told her that they were going to Dillon, SC, to the magistrate’s office to get married. The marriage license fee? $2.00.
After the ceremony, and the drive back across the border, Poppa dropped Gaggy off at her parents’ house and he went back to his. A few weeks later, after a thought-to-be clandestine trip to New York City, a notice appeared in the local paper, mentioning that a Mr. and Mrs. Monroe Evans were spending time at Manhattan’s Lincoln Hotel.
They were busted.
Both sets of parents were furious. It was scandalous. The Jewish community in North Carolina was a very small, tight knit group. Everyone would know. The parents told their children that they needed to have a proper wedding. One that was officiated by a rabbi. The date for their second wedding was Sunday, June 20th. It was Father’s Day.
In between the two weddings, my grandparents went to a jewelry store in Fayetteville to pick out a ring. The one my grandmother picked out, the one I wear on my right hand, cost $50.00. Poppa paid $5.00 down and $5.00 a month for the next nine months.
In the early years that they were married, they owned a furniture business and worked side by side while raising two children. My grandfather went on to become the first Jewish mayor of Fayetteville, serving during the Civil Rights Movement and was instrumental in peacefully bringing together the city’s diverse community. He was also a sculptor and a hands-on philanthropist. My grandmother served on the City Council, was a painter, a poet and a founding member of the city’s first art museum.
My grandmother gave me her gold band when I was in my late 20’s and planning my own wedding. She wanted me to get married in it. And so I did. The year was 1995. It was almost 58 years after she had picked it out.
Almost eight years later, I got divorced. And I stopped wearing all of my rings. It was a really tough time for me, raising two young kids and not having been on my own for over ten years.
But I never once lost my belief in love. And never stopped marveling at my grandparents’ marriage. Still wanting to have a relationship like the one that they had for so many years. The love, the friendship, the respect and according to my grandmother, the sex. The four most important components of a marriage.
And I found that relationship when I met my husband. We got married in 2006, two months after Poppa died, at the age of 91. Gaggy died last year. She was 94.
I’ll never make it to my 69th wedding anniversary, even though I obviously have longevity in my genes, because I would be 110 years old. But I try to enjoy every day that I have. Looking down at my hand and seeing my grandmother’s wedding band gives me strength and it gives me pleasure. And it reminds me of my heritage and inspires me to be more like my grandparents though I don’t think that I could ever accomplish what they managed to.
That ring is so much more than a circle of gold.
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